As an account executive, I pull together a lot of competitor audits for our clients. It is at the same time a tedious but highly enlightening process. There is no better way to quickly learn about a category and competitors. You also learn a lot about your own efforts and how well you compare.

One key area of learning is if and how well competitors are using inbound tactics such as marketing automation to capture and nurture leads. My observation, after multiple audits in some highly competitive categories is that there is wide disparity among marketers.

Because this is an audit, I only get into the initial stages of engagement – awareness and consideration – not an actual purchase. When looking at competitor advertising, search results and web pages, I look for clear calls to action, meaningful content, and whether the marketer makes it appealing and easy for me to offer my email and other information. Once I do, I wait for their response and take note of who is quickest to engage.

Follow up quickly and regularly

The marketers that are most on their game are generally quick to make contact. The first response usually arrives via email in the form of a thank you message. The format of any given thank you message can vary, but it is best practice to link back to the main website. This gives the recipient an easy portal back to your featured content. The next point of contact is generally another email, this time recommending content related to your purchase or a recently created account. This email often times includes links that lead to additional details and even more offerings.

Practice Growth-driven design

Not only do the better inbound marketers follow up with you quickly they also make it easy for you to engage with their site using a growth driven design methodology. A focus on growth driven design means menus are clearly positioned and easy to navigate, content is laid out effectively and messages target the user, and the path to conversion (or purchase) is clear. If you create an account on a site that effectively uses automation, you can expect a thank you email, followed by a steady stream of related content offers in the days to come.

Some may think that this is too much effort, but they would be wrong. It is important to nurture your leads throughout the buyer journey. If you play your cards right, these leads ultimately turn into satisfied customers.

The more proactive marketers easily outshine companies who are not focused on nurturing leads. Without the follow-up contact and nurturing, it becomes easy to forget about a product or service that just didn’t seem to have much to offer, even if it does.

So, an audit shows you a variety of approaches to inbound, some good and some not. Think of your own efforts. Follow up once someone visits your site or makes contact. A well-timed, well-crafted response could mean the difference between converting a lead into a customer or having them move on to a competitor.